|"Is this all real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
The topic of this article is of a real-life subject that has been mentioned "in-universe" in a canon source. The Harry Potter Wiki is written from the perspective that all information presented in canon is true (e.g., Hogwarts really existed), and, as such, details contained in this article may differ from real world facts.
A shrunken head is a head that has been shrunk and preserved.
In the wizarding world, shrunken heads are animated, providing sentience, and having the ability to talk and move. Some may be considered dark objects, while others may be kept by wizards as a mascot, such as Dre Head, in the Knight Bus and a bunch of shrunken heads, at the Three Broomsticks Inn. Shrunken heads may be bought at Knockturn Alley.
Harry Potter encountered Dre Head, an animated shrunken head when travelling on the Knight Bus from Little Whinging to the Leaky Cauldron in London. Later in the school year, during one of the Hogsmeade weekend trips, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were prevented from entering the Three Broomsticks Inn by three shrunken heads.
When Harry Potter was brought to 12 Grimmauld Place, Mrs Weasley assisted him to Ron and Hermione's room upstairs. While they were passing along the dark staircase, Harry saw a row of shrunken heads mounted on plaques on the wall. After a closer look, he noticed that the heads belonged to house-elves. Harry later discovered that beheading old house-elves and mounting their heads on display was something of a tradition in the Black family.
Known shrunken heads
- Dre Head
- Shrunken heads in the Three Broomsticks
- House of Black house-elves (at least from 1931)
Behind the scenes
- The talking shrunken heads were additional characters created for the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, never appearing in the Harry Potter books nor in previous or subsequent film adaptations. However, it was well-received, in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD Special Feature: Interview with J. K. Rowling and Alfonso Cuarón, J.K. Rowling did endorse the addition. Rowling had said she wished she thought of the idea, and if she had the ability, would shrink her own head temporarily to scare away unwanted visitors and tax collectors, who would likely flee from her in horror.
- The film's addition is presumably why in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Rowling decided to write that Vincent Crabbe got a shrunken head confiscated by Filch. The same DVD also featured Dre Head partaking in comical interviews with the cast.
- In the real world, "Headhunting" was common in various parts of the world but creating shrunken heads has only been documented among the Jivaroan peoples in the northwestern region of the Amazon rainforest. They were created by removing the skull and fat of the victim with their mouth sewn shut and then boiling the head in water with herbs containing tannins while taking steps to preserve the shape and features. Finally the head was rubbed with charcoal ash. The process had spiritual significance, in that it was thought to harness the power of the victim's spirit, putting it in the service of the head's creator while preventing it from retaliating against their killer. They were also used as a warning to enemies and in some religious rituals.
- In the early 20th century, demand from western tourists and collectors began a trade in the items, prompting an increase in killings along with the creation of counterfeit heads, often using animals, by tribes who did not share the traditions. The Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments eventually worked together to outlaw the trade. It has been estimated that about 80% of shrunken heads in museum or private collections are counterfeits.
- Helena Bonham Carter stated in an interview that Bellatrix had a headshrinking spell, and used it to punish a man who ate a cupcake she had reserved for herself by shrinking his head. However, this was never confirmed as canon, and it may be mentioned in humour by Carter. Assuming it is canon, it is unknown if the resulting shrunken head was of the talking variety, or merely what amounted to an unusual-looking corpse.
- In the case of the talking Shrunken Heads, it is unknown where the mind inhabiting them came from. They may all-new magical constructs, an imprint of the original head's owner comparable to Portraits, or a type of undead created through Necromancy.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (As skeleton heads)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) (As skeleton heads)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter Limited Edition
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- LEGO Harry Potter
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) - Chapter 11 (I Hope He Finds Me)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) - Chapter 3 (The Knight Bus)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 11 (Hermione's Helping Hand)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4 (At Flourish and Blotts)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) DVD2 (Special Features) - Head to Shrunken Head
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 4 (Number Twelve Grimmauld Place)